A/N: This story is already mostly finished, so I can tell you that there will be three parts. Now at least one of the characters is not acting in a way that can really be called sane or rational any more and I could probably go on for a while about the why and whatfor and all the other issues touched here, but since I don't want to bore anyone I'll just let you draw your own conclusions.
When he first spots the intricate tiny braids adorning his laughing daughter's head Tos'un feels as if the ground below his feet has suddenly become unstable. A shard of icy fear lodges in his stomach at the sight. He still remembers the woman who used to wear these braids, remembers her clearly. Often enough he even did the braiding himself and he knows there should be no one left who knows how to produce the intricate hairstyle that Kaer'lic Suun Wett had always favoured in such exact detail.
„Doumi", he calls his daughter, whose head even now barely reaches his shoulder. She is still so young and innocent, that the sight of her wearing these braids is terribly jarring to him. Especially when she looks up to him out of trusting green eyes.
„You look beautiful today. Who did your hair darling?" he asks, relieved when his voice sounds normal, even though his heart is beating much too fast.
Doum'wielle smiles widely, obviously pleased with the compliment and presents him with a closer look. It confirms what he has already suspected. This is exactly how Kaer'lic has always worn her hair. Down to the last detail. The style is too eccentric to be reproduced by mere chance. That cold feeling in his stomach spreads. Tos'un has always suspected that this day would come. A time when his family would be threatened by his past. Somehow though he is not quite prepared for the feeling of helplessness the sight evokes in him.
"Jaellien did it", his daughter says. An elven name that Tos'un has heard before. It is the name of someone he has never seen before, but about whom his wife and daughter have both told him stories when they came back from one of their relatively frequent trips to the city of Silverymoon. A friend he has yet to meet. Tos'un has never felt the urge to accompany them and face the self righteous inhabitants of the city, but now he wonders if he should not have paid more attention. "He always does it like this when we're in Silverymoon!"
But they are not in the city right now. They are in the Moonwood, where Doum'wielle was born only nineteen years ago. Which means Jaellien must be part of the group that arrived yesterday. A group of wizards, craftsmen and engineers sent from Silverymoon to help them with that embankment dam project that seems to consume all of Hralien's time lately. Tos'un smiles back at his daughter while he hastily tries to remember all that his family has ever told him about the elf they have been friendly with for some years already. A young mage, blond hair, green eyes... no, that is not possible. It can't be!
"Oh, but you came home so late yesterday, that you didn't have a chance to meet him!" Doumi says. "I don't think they have left for the river yet. We can go say hello now", she suggests brightly, smiling as if nothing could please her more.
Tos'un forces his own lips into a rather wooden smile and nods agreeably, while his thoughts are racing. Before his inner eye he watches a blond elf fall. It is a long fall before the frail body splashes into cold, churning waters, so deep below that it is becoming hard to make out any details. A certain death for someone who can not swim and quite probably also for someone who can. At least that is what they had thought back then. It is a moment from long ago, but he has never forgotten. As he follows his daughter's light steps towards the small cluster of huts they keep for guests the drow tries to fathom what he should do if it was really him. Even though it should be impossible, he can not quite squash the thought, the what if.
"Li!" Doumi cries. "Come and meet my father!" Tos'un can only stare as one person turns and breaks away from the small group assembled in front of the hut. For a second he feels nothing but paralyzed dread as he sees his very fear become truth before him. He knows that face and the body belonging to it. He knows how it feels to grab these bony wrists, that are presently concealed under the wide, green sleeves of a wizards robe, and push them down onto the ground hard enough to bruise and draw blood from deep scrapes or how it feels to bury his fingers in that blond hair, grip a strand and pull so hard that you can hear the small bones in the neck creak. He remembers all this only too well.
You are dead! Tos'un only just manages to keep the words in, but he does feel how his face turns cold as all blood seems to leave it. He watches, still paralyzed, as the blond elf closes the small gap that still separates them.
"You must be Tos'un then", the other says evenly with a small smile and a formal bow, as if they had indeed never met before. "How nice to finally make your acquaintance. Doumi has told me so much about you, that I almost feel as if we've known for years."
The words, their hidden meaning and the strange gleam in the green eyes instantly erase any doubts in Tos'uns mind. The other remembers just as well as he himself does. A good seven years of cruel games and humiliating service would be hard to forget in any case. Tos'un has not been there for all of those years, but long enough to add his own brand cruelty to that of the other three. No wonder the braids on his daughter's head are perfect. The blonde has spent even more time than Tos'un putting them on Kaer'lic's head every day. He covers his helpless swallowing with a polite bow, just like the one he has just received. Fear claws at him and he feels himself blinking too frequently. He has known them for years Tos'un reminds himself. If he had wanted to hurt them he would have done it by now. But what if he only waited for this moment? It rather depends on how much he hates me still, the drow decides.
"I have heard much about you as well", Tos'un forces himself to be cordial, although the smile he drags onto his face almost hurts him bodily. He hopes Doum'wielle will not notice it, but he is sure that the mage will. When he first knew him the other had no magical knowledge to speak of, but it seems he is quite a bit more dangerous now. The smile he receives for his words is razor sharp. Or maybe that is only his impression, because Doum'wielle is also smiling back at the blonde quite unperturbed by that dangerous edge. He viciously suppresses the sudden urge to snatch his daughter and get her away from here as far and as fast as possible. The drow has never felt this vulnerable in his life.
"Only good things I hope?"
"Why, of course!"
This conversation is excruciating! It could be worse though, Tos'un realizes suddenly. Jaellien could be accusing him publicly. Dread presses his throat closed at the thought. The new name is hard to put in connection with a face he knows so well. It is the only one he has to use though, Tos'un realizes with a sudden, unexpected pang of dismay. In all of those seven years they had never thought of anything else than words like slave, boy or more derogatory terms to call the mage now standing before him. A tiny flicker of guilt, that he has never felt before when thinking back on those years he spent with the drow trio on the surface, is suddenly gnawing at him. It appears that Sinnafein has indeed managed to instill a sort of conscience in him. A conscience which is making itself known at the most inopportune of moments!
"Mama, has invited you for supper tonight", Doumi chirps excitedly, distracting Tos'un from his unexpected feelings of remorse. Oh please no, he thinks, but there is no real way out of it now. Never mind the fact that he probably would have agreed gladly had Sinnafein asked him this morning. He hopes that the surprise at the invitation is not too obvious in his face, but that wish is quickly crushed by the glint of vicious amusement in Jaellien's eyes. The other could always read him quite well, Tos'un remembers unsettled.
"She said she would make the pie you like so much."
"Well, in that case I will certainly come!" Jaellien smiles at the girl, before he turns his gaze back to his former master. "It will certainly give us a chance to get to know each other better."
But they do already know each other far too well. That is the whole problem. The picture of a naked, panting body littered with bright red lash marks, spread out under him flashes though Tos'un's mind. He can still remember the smell of sweat, blood and sex that accompanied that moment and many others like it. How can the other stay so calm and collected, while Tos'un himself is still reeling from shock? Of course he has probably known for years now, the drow realizes as he smiles and nods in what he desperately hopes is a convincing show of a welcoming attitude. He used to be much better at this. There was a time in his life when dissembling had been such a natural reaction for him he wouldn't have thought about it twice.
Suddenly Tos'un feels ill equipped to meet this challenge. He is greatly relieved when Jaellien announces his departure to go with the others of his group in order to see how they might aid Hralien with his ambitious plans. He is even more relieved when he can steer his unsuspecting daughter back towards their home, so that she can go help her mother with the preparations for tonights meal. Sinnafein will not let her come to harm. She will be safe for the moment, he decides as he slinks off into the woods to find some desperately needed solitude, some place where he can just think.
He dares not go home beforehand. If Sinnafein saw him now she would notice instantly that something is amiss. The fact that his wife knows and understands him so well would usually be a source of comfort for the drow, but now it only threatens to drive him deeper into despair, for he doesn't know what to say to her about this. While she is aware that he has not lead an ideal life before he came to stay with her and her people he suspects that this purely theoretical knowledge and professed acceptance is not quite the same as having the subject of her husband's torture presented to her in a face to face meeting. Especially when said subject is also a friend of several years. To realize what he is really capable of would probably hurt her beyond belief. He has understood long ago that Sinnafein has a compelling sense of justice, which will not allow her to just stand by and watch others be hurt. Even though all hurt has already come to pass in this case Tos'un is not sure if she will be able to forgive him should Jaellien decide to provide details of his deeds.
And, as Tos'un silently admits only to himself, he still does not feel as much guilt about it as he probably should. The shiver of half suppressed excitement that wells up in him as he remembers the sensation of Jaellien's hot skin against his own makes him want to wail in frustration. He grips the branches of the tree he has seated himself in hard and tries to make the feeling go away. The self knowledge he has gained while living here lets him abandon the futile attempt after several minutes though. It is painful to acknowledge, but apparently his moral standards are still not quite as high as they should be after all these years.
Just what is he going to tell Sinnafein? He cannot lie to her. Not about something like this. Their relationship so far has been built on a lot of hard work, endless hours of explaining, talk and most importantly trust. To lie to his wife now would mean that everything he has invested in that trust so far was worthless. What they have built together is the most precious thing he has ever had the chance to participate in and he would do anything not to lose it. Tos'un is sure that he loves her and that his love is returned, but he is also deathly afraid that their love for each other might not be enough in this case. Could Sinnafein come to love and despise him at the same time?
Why has Jaellien decided to confront him now? Did he come to expose Tos'un? The simple unadorned truth might be enough to destroy the life he has built for himself, for what he has done is quite unforgivable in the eyes of the others who live here. He knows that and in that sense he regrets everything deeply, but now that the past has been evoked in his mind he is somehow stuck on thinking of the many occasions when Jaellien silently crept into his bed, pressing close with clever hands and soft lips. Of course that probably had a lot to do with the fact that the caves they lived in were usually cold and that they never bothered to provide him with a bed of his own, Tos'un reflects cynically as he buries his face in slender fingers. Even after spending some hours debating it with himself, he has no clue what the other might want from him now. Revenge? Apologies? Groveling and pleas for mercy? Hells, he would probably give him that should he demand it. Their brief exchange this morning was not enough to gauge the mage's intentions with any amount of accuracy though. But he has come here, so he must want something.
Should he go back to talk to Sinnafein now? There is the slight possibility that she would maybe not understand but at least try to accept even this. And what would he tell his daughter, who still trusts him with the single minded certainty of a child who has never been betrayed in her life? Tos'un values that trust highly, because he knows only too well that nothing can bring it back once it is gone. If he remains silent though is that not the same thing as a betrayal? Should he not at least try to have faith in what they built together? Despite everything he has done in his life he is certain that he would never wish to hurt them.
Tos'un is so deeply immersed in his troubled considerations that it takes a loud cough before he even notices Jaellien standing on the ground beside his tree and for a moment he is frozen again.
"Will you not come down?" the blond elf finally asks. "I've no wish to strain my neck looking up to you."
And he probably means that in more than one sense. Gritting his teeth the drow just nods silently and proceeds to climb down.
Once he sets his feet upon the ground he takes a few seconds to try and evaluate the mage's expression, but he could just as well be staring at a statue. The pale face gives nothing away. The features are mostly like he remembers, if a little more filled out. The blond hair has been tied into a knot on the back of the mage's head and is not hanging around his shoulders like it used to. Large, green eyes which regard Tos'un now, but they give no clue of what is to happen next. Tos'un swallows the "sorry" that has been lying on his tongue. The irony would be too much he feels. Instead he puts up his own inscrutable mask and decides to cut straight to the point.
"Why have you come?"
His enquiry provokes a seemingly unconcerned shrug.
"I considered letting you stew for a while longer, but my wish was to hurt neither your wife nor your daughter, by ruining their evening, so I came to talk now", Jaellien answers, probably deliberately misunderstanding the intended meaning of the drow's question. The feeling of being in the defensive is not one Tos'un likes much, but he stays still as the other starts to circle around him. He hopes not hurting his family will also include the emotional pain they would feel upon seeing him hurt. He realizes belatedly that he has but a single long hunting knife on him. Not a very good weapon against a mage. Not that he would really dare to hurt the blond elf right now. By simply keeping in mind the ugly truth of their shared past the other is virtually untouchable for him and they both know it.
"Where you thinking of telling Sinnafein about the years you spent raping and abusing me?"
Jaellien is standing much too close behind him and the soft words almost seem to creep over Tos'un's skin as the other breathes them out just above the dark skinned neck. The shiver they produce feels hot and cold at the same time.
The answer, just as softly spoken as the question, was easier to get out than the drow had expected.
"You will not say a single word until I give you permission!"
That harsh, icy hiss almost has Tos'un turn in utter surprise, but a hard grip on his shoulders stops him before he can actually do so. He feels the fingers digging deeply into his skin through the rough fabric of his shirt and decides wisely to keep looking forward into the abundant greenery.
"You see", Jaellien continues, softly again, as if answering an unheard question. "I do genuinely like both of them and I value their friendship greatly. I would not wish to see them hurt in any way and Sinnafein actually seems to love you." Before Tos'un can say anything to that the other continues: "Even though you do in no way deserve that, you obviously love her enough to have apparently managed to protect her from yourself so far."
That cool assessment comes uncomfortably close to some of Tos'un's own thoughts during the last few hours and he shifts restlessly in the strong grip.
"So according to you we are both going to lie to her?"
His unhappy question is echoed by a bitter laugh.
"Why, is that a problem for you?"
"Yes!" Tos'un hisses sharply. "Do you not see, that you might not be the only one to have changed since we last met? As you said yourself, I actually do love her!"
At that he his roughly pulled around, gripped by his collar and shoved against the nearest tree. Hard. The pure fury he can see in the green eyes now evokes a strangely double layered feeling in him. On the one hand there is the natural and expected wariness in the face of a dangerous adversary on the other hand though Tos'un also experiences a sudden sharp burst of excitement like he has not known in years. The drow curses himself as he watches Jaellien's eyes narrow even more. Of course the other would have picked up on his reaction. He is far too familiar with that kind of look to miss it.
"Lets see how much you have changed then! I will ask you a question now", Jaellien is practically growling with rage. "Which I expect you to answer. And be assured that I will know if you lie."
He presses himself close to Tos'un so that their bodies touch almost at full length and whispers in one dark skinned ear.
"Consider this: If you knew for sure there would be no consequences and I was weak, would you not try to overpower me, throw me down on the ground right now and fuck me raw, like you used to?"
The instant reaction of his body to the image these words produce in his brain makes Tos'un's face burn. No consequences. Damn. The truth is, with this particular elf he probably would. He has done that often enough. It is not a question he really wants to answer. Not with the other still pressed so terribly close. He grips the tree behind him to keep his hands from twitching.
"Your silence tells me more than words ever could, you know", the blonde says when after a few long moments Tos'un still fails to produce a single sound. He cannot see the face, but the anger in those words is hard to mistake for anything else.
The drow gasps sharply when he suddenly feels insistent fingers that are working their way past his belt. Automatically, unthinkingly he tries to bend his body backwards and away, but he only manages a tiny movement of his head before he collides with the tree in his back. It is too late anyway. The clever fingers have already closed around his penis. The traitorous thing even twitches at the unexpected attention. A few leisurely strokes quickly bring him to full attention. It's really quite pathetic how easy that was, he thinks to himself and bites his lip to keep still.
"I notice that you are not asking me to stop."
The blond elf's lips brush against his cheek as he speaks, while the second hand closes on his shoulder once more, in an unforgiving grip, which Tos'un knows will leave a painful bruise. He shivers again.
"You hold the power in this", he gasps, trying hard not to squirm. "You will do as you wish in any case."
The grip on his shoulder tightens impossibly, probably aided by some magic, and this time the pain is enough to make the drow audibly grind his teeth. It does not quite diminish his arousal though.
"Like you would in my place? Remember what I said: No consequences."
The grip grows harder below now too, but not so much that it would kill the damning feeling of lust, rather the opposite. Jaellien has always been almost eerily good at this. He knows how to play Tos'un's body like a finely tuned instrument, a talent he has apparently not lost even after all the years that have passed since they were parted. But as he finally does squirm helplessly Tos'un remembers that he does know quite a lot of things as well that would make the elf gasp and blush. He is just not sure if it would be a good idea to use any of them, for Jaellien might actually hurt him if he takes initiative and touches him now. In the end Tos'un keeps his grip on the tree and contents himself with a breathy: "You already know the answer to that, don't you?"
It is the truth after all. Even though he does not like it.
When soft, insidious lips close on the shell of his ear it is all Tos'un can do not to whimper needily.
"I think I do, but why don't you oblige me and say it out loud?"
The fingertips stroking lightly along the sensitive underside of his penis do not help him much in finding a coherent answer.
"On most days the knowledge that there are consequences is enough."
Tos'un can feel the lips on his ear stretch into a humorless smile.
"Oh, believe me I am quite aware of that."
The fingers movements grow more insistent and he is almost past caring as he realizes how close he is already. Apparently it doesn't take much to break through his defenses nowadays.
"If it wasn't Sinnafein would never have married you. I just don't think you dare to admit even to yourself how little you have actually changed underneath it all. As I said, you protect her from the parts of yourself she couldn't live with."
Tos'un wonders dimly how it is possible, but Jaellien somehow manages to lean even closer and the added pressure is almost enough to make him come on the spot. Almost. And the bastard knows it too.
"I'm quite sure you have never held her head under water or choked her while you fucked her until she came."
The memories of the few occasions when he did put Jaellien through such treatment and the way the grip on his shoulder grows a tiny bit stronger still until it hurts just right are enough to push Tos'un over the edge during the next seconds. This was humiliating, but also strangely satisfying he decides hazily, fully aware that their encounter would be viewed as highly inappropriate in the close community he is living in.
While the drow is still panting, slumped against the tree, the mage withdraws swiftly and holds out his soiled hand.
There is no hesitation as Tos'un bows down to lick the fingers clean and he notes with silent satisfaction, that the whole procedure does not leave the other unaffected. Not at all, if he goes by the quickened breathing and widened pupils. As soon as he is finished though, he finds himself roughly pushed away, so that he ends up crouching next to the tree again.
"I would take you", he admits quietly, taking great care not to look at Jaellien while he says that. "But alas, there are consequences, so I won't."